Here’s the lowdown, all angel food cake recipes are basically the same; sift dry ingredients, beat egg whites, fold dry ingredients into wet, spoon batter into an ungreased tube pan, — bake. The devil is in the details. This is where practice comes in handy as the first three times I attempted to make this cake years ago they were epic fails. I could also blame in on a very humid summer.
Some people swear that only fresh egg whites will do. I however, have had great success using whites that I had previously frozen as I’ve been known to make a lot of lemon curd. Which by the way, would be delicous accompanying this cake.
Also, any object (i.e, whisk, bowl, spatula) that comes in contact with the egg whites should be impeccably clean with no trace of fat. Also, since cake flour contains less gluten the end result is a more tender cake.
I would have to agree with the late Flo Bracker that using a combination of granulated and powdered sugars are the way to go. Granulated sugar gives stability to the meringue while the powdered sugar sifted with the flour makes the folding of the dry ingredients into the wet much easier.
Finally, wait until the egg whites are foamy before adding the granulated sugar and then add it slowly. You don’t want to overwhelm the egg whites by adding the sugar too quickly. Then beat just until a medium peak is reached. Pay attention by whipping egg whites a hundred times noticing each time what constitutes soft, medium, and stiff peaks. After the dry ingredients are folded into the meringue the batter should be on the verge of spoon-able but still pour-able.
The recipe also lists many optional ingredients. I’m not recommending that you add all the optional ingredients to the same cake but instead add the lemon zest and fresh thyme or zest and poppyseeds; or zest and fresh lemon juice, or maybe the almond and vanilla extracts.
I’m also a big proponent of weighing ingredients due to its ease and accuracy instead of measuring by volume. For example, there is a big difference between 1 cup of cake flour, sifted and 1 cup of sifted cake flour. If the dry ingredients are weighed it doesn’t matter whether they are sifted before or after weighing as it’s the same weight. Make your baking life easier and get yourself a scale!
1 cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) sifted cake flour
1½ cups (4 oz / 110 g) sifted powdered sugar
½ teaspoon fine kosher salt
1 2/3 cups (15 oz / 425 g) egg whites, room temperature (12 – 13 whites)
1 1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) cream of tarter
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optionel)
2 – 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
zest of one lemon, organic if possible (optionel)
2 teaspoons freshly minced fresh thyme (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Have ready a 10” x 4” tube pan that is impeccably clean and dry.
Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a sieve over a bowl and sift together 3 or 4 times. Set aside.
In the bowl of a 4 or 6-quart stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, on medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and continue beating. If adding the lemon juice drizzle it in now.
Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until soft peaks form; begin adding the granulated sugar a little bit at a time. Continue beating until the mixture forms a medium peak and begins to take on a shine. If including, add the extracts and whisk just to combine.
Transfer the meringue to a wide bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the egg whites about ¼ cup at a time and with a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture. (At this point you will know if the whites have been over-beaten as it will be difficult to fold the dry ingredients into them. Make a mental note for next time.) After folding in the second batch of sifted flour fold in any additional optional dry ingredients and then continue folding in the third and final bit of sifted flour.
Gently push the batter into the ungreased tube pan. Cut through the batter a few times with a thin metal spatula or butter knife to remove any large air bubbles.
Bake the cake on the lowest rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched and the cracks feel dry. Invert the pan onto its feet or on to a wine bottle allowing it to cool completely.
Run a thin-blade knife around the edge of the pan and tube. Tip the cake over and run the knife between the cake and the bottom section.
Use a serrated knife to cut into slices and serve with berries, lemon curd, or whipped cream…or all of the accompaniments.